Sunday, 13 October 2013

The Crow Road - Iain Banks


I'm ashamed to say I was only inspired to seek out a Banks novel by the rather impressive way he handled his early death.  I'm also abashed to realise that such a great writer was out there - and I, who fancies himself a litterateur - hadn't read him.

I had, of course, seen the BBC dramatization of The Crow Road back in the Nineties (which the Beeb, for pretty much the reasons given above, recently repeated).  I liked the TV version but it's nowhere near as good as the book.  The blurb on the front touts Banks as an 'imaginative' novelist.  What's that supposed to mean?  Well in this case it means a novelist who can imagine the world of part of a Highland community in such detail that he can even describe the inner workings of a piece of constructivist modern art.  The three families focussed on have such a depth of backstory that every twist and turn of their interconnections seems to have been mapped.  There is a central mystery but that's only really the fuel that keeps Prentice, our hero, peeling back the layers.  When the mystery is finally resolved it seems almost irrelevant - and yet it completes the novel.

Five hundred pages plus and I can only find one fault.  What is the point of the third McHoan brother, the one unsurprisingly deleted from the TV dramatization?  It seems odd that someone with so vivid a vision should keep trundling him onto our shared imaginative stage for no good reason.

I loved this book.  I will seek out more.  I might even try the sci-fi.

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